On Feb. 24, the Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the New Jersey Devils 6-1 on their home ice. The loss to the Devils was both unexpected and unsettling. The loss had Pittsburgh at a three-game losing streak, however, its 1-0 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday ended that streak.
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In order for the Penguins to have continued success, they need to stay consistent on all fronts. Everyone expects big things from players such as Penguins captain Sidney Crosby or defenseman Kris Letang, but there are other key players on Pittsburgh’s roster who bring something special to the table.
Tristan Jarry gave up five goals on the night against the Devils. With a .928 save percentage (SV%) so far this season, Thursday’s performance against New Jersey was very unusual for him. He had allowed 13 goals in the Penguins’ previous three losses, but Saturday’s performance against the Rangers vindicated the starting goalie. He blocked 27 shots against the Rangers thus earning his 11th career shutout. They will need him to be playing his best hockey as they head into the second half of the season.
Casey DeSmith, the Penguins’ backup goalie, has been making a strong case for himself to possibly become the starter if Jarry continues to struggle. He replaced him on Thursday night during the second period, and blocked 16 of 17 shots. With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching, he is trying to prove to his team that he is reliable, and deserves to remain on the roster.
The Penguins have a sleeping giant on their roster in Jake Guentzel. The left winger may not look like a typical hockey player at 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 180 pounds, however his value to the team is undeniable. So far this season, he is their top scorer with 25 goals on the season.
He has an uncanny ability to find the net, and he is willing to pay the price to score goals. Head coach Mike Sullivan knows he has a workhorse in Guentzel, and he knows the 27-year-old is only going to get better.
Pittsburgh has been without its fourth-line center since he suffered a broken jaw on Jan. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets. Teddy Blueger has been sorely missed by his team, especially on the penalty kill. Since he has been gone, the Penguins have allowed seven power-play goals, versus a total of ten in the 40 games Blueger played. They are hoping to have Blueger back towards the end of March, and return him to the fourth line with Zach Aston-Reese and Brock McGinn. He will have a little less than a month to shake off the cobwebs before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
The Penguins’ biggest plague so far this season has been consistency. They played good, physical hockey on Saturday against the Rangers and will need to keep that momentum up for the remainder of their season. The Carolina Hurricanes are currently first in the Metropolitan Division, and the Penguins have already fallen to the Hurricanes once this season in the 4-3 loss on Feb. 20. They will have two more meetings with them, which will be crucial for them to see how they match up against a higher-ranked team.
They will have three more meetings with the New York Rangers during the regular season, as well as a meeting with the Florida Panthers, who are first in the Atlantic Division. Fans are anxious to see how their team matches up against these higher-ranked teams as the hockey world looks ahead to May and the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.